New Year, Nice to Hear!

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So you survived the holidays this year, but have told yourself 2013 is going to be the year that you get help in improving your hearing. Well, you are certainly not alone. Most people find the holidays a frustrating time because of the missed laughter of the grandchildren, avoidance of social situations, having to ask people to constantly repeat themselves, and so much more. In fact, research shows that there are around 35 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss symptoms (from some sources that number is millions higher) and the number is said to be slowly increasing. If you find yourself among the statistics, or are unsure either way, 2013 and the New Year may be a perfect time to make a resolution for better hearing and to finally look into the correct path for you. Not every hearing aid or hearing solution will work for you, so individualized advice from a trusted audiologist or doctor is the best start. With hearing care today and the state of digital hearing aids, this will be a resolution sure to last for years to come and have a positive impact.

Sergei Kochkin, an American hearing expert, has completed several studies associated with hearing impaired Americans and their use of hearing aids. His 2008 survey found that there are indeed around 35 million Americans dealing with hearing impairments, or roughly 11.3% of this U.S. population. However, it was found that more than 25 million of these people did not have a hearing aid. Just 28.5% of hearing impaired Americans has hearing aids. Since a 2005 survey, the number of hearing impaired people in this country increased from 31.5 million to 35 million, a 9% increase in a time period with just 4.5% population growth. The future is serious when it comes to the number 助聽器類型 of hearing impaired Americans and although hearing aids have come a long way in scientific advances, there will still be too many people suffering from hearing loss with nothing done to assist them. According to one the 2005 MarkeTrak VII report, it is projected that the numbers of Americans with hearing loss will increase to 40 million by 2025 and 53 million by 2050. Solutions may be advancing, but so are the statistics and needs of our fellow Americans.

In our digital age and industrial workplaces, hearing loss is a common result for many Americans. Noisy U.S. work places are required to monitor the hearing of employees exposed to hazardous noise in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Many people do not realize that there are annual audiograms for exposed workers. Employers must record work-related hearing loss situations when an employee’s hearing test shows a marked decrease in overall hearing. Our digital age also has impacted hearing. It is not uncommon to see people walking down the street with headphones or ear buds in place. But any audiologist will tell you it is imperative that everyone (young and old) think twice before turning the volume up too loud. Turning the volume too high on the headphones can actually damage the coating of the nerve cells in your ears, leading to temporary hearing loss or more serious, permanent damage. According to recent research, loud music through headphones on personal music players can create situations as dangerous as the noise levels of jet engines. Noise levels exceeding 110dB are known to cause hearing problems such as temporary hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). But just recently, cell damage has been observed, concerning doctors and scientists greatly. Nerve cells that carry electrical signals from the ears to the brain have a coating called the myelin sheath, which helps the electrical signals travel along the cell. High exposure to very loud noises, over 110dB, can eliminate the cells of this coating, causing issues with the electrical signals. As a result, the nerves can no longer transmit information from the ears to the brain, causing hearing loss.

For those who have hearing loss but have not done anything about it, we know that the impact can range from social and emotional to physical issues. With the start of the New Year here, it is the perfect time to finally look into hearing aids and reduce the stress and frustration hearing loss has brought to your life. Some of life’s greatest joys are those which are heard and transformed into memories of the heart. Hearing loss can greatly impact communication, and for most people who have never had major issues communicating with others, it can be frustrating and emotional. The experience of hearing loss is different for everyone and each individual may cope differently. Hearing loss absolutely makes communicating with the outside world difficult and life can be impacted by these circumstances. Socially, having a hearing loss has been described as an invisible handicap. In fact, Helen Keller said that “deafness cuts one off from people, whereas blindness cuts one off from things.”

Hearing loss can have many other emotional effects when left untreated. One in three people over the age of 60 have hearing loss, making it one of the most common conditions in the elderly. Although most adults wait on average 5-15 years to do something about hearing loss, you should not wait that long. The sooner you get assistance with your hearing loss or get the right hearing aids, the easier and more rewarding life will become and you may find more normalcy in everyday activities once more. Adults with hearing loss have difficulty participating in conversations at work, home and in social situations. This leads to issues with isolation, depression, anger, and so on. Also, according to a study completed at the Better Hearing Institute, “untreated hearing loss affects productivity, performance and career success, resulting in as much as a $30,000 loss in annual income.” The psychological consequences of untreated hearing loss for both children and adults can also result in more outbursts of anger, lower self-confidence, frustration, embarrassment and depression. Adults may find themselves going through periods of sadness as their ability to hear diminishes with time. They also may feel more fatigued, as the struggle to hear and understand others can actually be physically exhausting. A recent study concluded that 73% of individuals with hearing loss and 41% of their relatives believe that their family relationships did improve once they started wearing hearing aids. This is a positive conclusion for such an emotional problem faced by millions of Americans.

Today’s hearing aids have made many scientific advances. Many Americans worry about what their hearing aids will look like, one common reason people delay looking into help with their hearing for too long. Others are simply in denial and do not think they need a hearing aid. “The number one thing I get from my patients is ‘I hear what I want to hear,’ ” said Dr. Linda S. Remensnyder, an audiologist in Libertyville, Ill. “What they don’t understand is that in order to be fully engaged in life, you have to be fully engaged everywhere.” People around you may notice your hearing impairment before you do. People with hearing loss may be able to hear, but they just cannot understand. The issue is actually that hearing loss can cause a person to mix up consonants. Another common reason people do not look into hearing aids is because they actually believe hearing loss is normal with age and so hearing aids cannot do anything to alleviate the problem. But hearing loss can affect balance, too, and even mild hearing loss is said to triple the risk of falling.

Vanity is also an issue for many Americans when it comes to hearing aids. For men, it seems to be associated with a sign of weakness, while women tend to think it makes them look old. But with today’s newer designs, hearing aids are now smaller and less visible than ever before. A hearing aid is an electronic device that is worn in or behind the ear that amplifies and modulates sound. These devices have a microphone to receive sound, an amplifier to increase the power of the sound signals, and a receiver to project the sounds to the ear. Hearing aids differ in size and the degree that they amplify sound. There are several types of hearing aids and can match both your hearing needs and your lifestyle. According to one audiologist’s website, “Some of the different types of hearing aids on the market include canal receiver technology (where there is an ultra-small, lightweight, behind-the-ear piece and a nearly invisible wire delivering sound to the ear), open behind-the-ear (a behind-the-ear (BTE) piece attached to a slim, clear tube that delivers sound to the ear), behind-the-ear (a behind-the-ear (BTE) piece using a tube to attach it to a customized ear mold that fits securely into the ear with maximum amplification and longer battery life), completely-in-the-canal (smallest custom hearing aid available, the CIC fits deeply inside the ear canal making it almost invisible), in-the-canal (custom-made to fit almost entirely inside the ear canal, making them difficult to notice), half shell (custom-made to fit securely in your outer ear), and full shell (fit securely and comfortably in the outer ear).” There is, of course, a misconception that hearing aids are plug-and-go. Dr. Remensnyder said, “I spend 80 percent of my time making adjustments and showing patients how to use them properly.”

One of the most important decisions you will make regarding a hearing aid is finding a caring professional who will listen to your needs and wants. Discuss with them your concerns, how it will look, how it will work, and the emotional issues you are currently facing. To get hearing aids, you should start by having a hearing evaluation or assessment to determine the type and extent of your hearing loss. The process begins with a medical and audiological examination. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) actually promotes this step in choosing hearing aids and feels that it is in your best health interest to have a medical examination by a licensed professional before buying hearing aids. The law requires patients intending on buying to have a medical exam beforehand or sign a waiver. The benefits of improving your hearing are immense and life-changing for the better. You will be able to hear sounds that you haven’t heard in a long time, hear speech over the telephone and in person better, communicate easier with friends and family reducing embarrassment, and your listening will improve in noisy situations. Make your decision to hear better and look into hearing aids a successful 2013 New Year’s resolution!

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